Wayne State Donor Agreement Goes Under the Microscope

Terms of a pizza-and-sports magnate family’s $40 million gift to build Wayne State University’s business school have come under scrutiny in Detroit, with clauses about donor consultation on curriculum and dean pay catching attention in particular.

But while a donation agreement between Wayne State and Michael and Marian Ilitch reveals intriguing details about the current tricks of the trade in university fund-raising, much of it is actually keeping with current trends. The university maintains that those much-dissected provisions on pay and curriculum aren’t out of the ordinary — even though many continue to worry it could leave open the door for the big-name donors to exert undue influence.

Others say that if anything is out of lockstep with current practices, it’s the length of the naming rights being awarded. The donation agreement calls for the school to be named after Michael Ilitch in perpetuity. But even if many of the conditions — including details on how the donors are to be recognized — are honored, others are raising concerns of faculty members.

To fully understand the donation terms’ context, it’s important to consider the history of the business school’s donors, as well as development planned around the school’s future site to create an area called The District Detroit. Donors Michael and Marian Ilitch founded the Little Caesars Pizza chain. The couple also owns several other business interests including the Detroit Tigers Major League Baseball …